Students and former students in support of Professor Miller

Professor Hugh Brady
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Bristol

Dear Professor Brady,

We are students and former students of Professor David Miller, or students or former students of the University of Bristol and other higher education institutions. We stand in opposition to the censorship and smear campaign being waged against Professor Miller. We believe that the accusations made against him threaten academic freedom. They appear to be aimed at silencing criticism of the State of Israel’s historic and ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights.

We oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, and believe we must all work together to remove racism from campus. Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian students have the right to live in safety and with dignity. But Zionist ideology has tried to erase Palestine and to silence Palestinian voices. If the University of Bristol is serious about opposing racism and grappling with Britain’s colonial past, it is vital to recognise the injustices being carried out against Palestine and its people. The fight against antisemitism must not diminish the fight against the oppression of other peoples.

Professor Miller has spent his entire career researching state and corporate lobby groups and propaganda strategies. His work on Israel and Zionism is only one part of this wider work. The lecture about which the first complaints were made was on the extremely important topic of Islamophobia. We believe that Professor Miller is being targeted and harassed because he discussed the role parts of the Zionist movement play in encouraging Islamophobia. Professor Miller’s work has always been strongly evidence based, and we believe that his recent comments on Israel, the Zionist movement and Islamophobia should be judged on this basis and not in relation to selective outrage and misquotation.

The hostilities directed at Professor Miller and the false allegations of antisemitism made against critics of Zionism and the State of Israel are leaving many students too intimidated to voice concerns about these issues. It is vital for the University of Bristol to promote evidence-based research and teaching without the threat of harassment. No country, government or ideology should be exempt from criticism, not least on a university campus. We ask the University of Bristol to continue its commitment to free speech, academic freedom and a culture of openness where discussions, even on contentious topics, may take place.

We insist that anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are not antisemitism. The IHRA working definition of antisemitism, adopted by the University of Bristol in 2019, is being used to misrepresent Professor Miller by conflating Judaism with Zionism. This conflation is wrong on two counts; not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews. We ask the University of Bristol to retract the IHRA definition and replace it with a more precise definition that prevents the misrepresentation of discussions about Zionism, Israel and Palestine.

We feel compelled to come together in solidarity with Professor Miller. The University of Bristol must defend the principle of academic freedom within the law and reject complaints from lobby groups and sectional interests.

cc:

Professor Simon Tormey, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Law
Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro VC (Student Experience)
Professor Tansy Jessop, Pro VC (Education)
Professor Judith Squires, Provost
Mr Jack Boyer, Chair, Board of Trustees
Dr Moira Hamlin, Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees
Ms Jane Bridgwater, Director of Legal Services

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